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Manservant: What women and some men really want

Updated : April 09, 2020 11:15 AM IST
- By CNBC's Jane Wells

What do women want?

That is a question men have been asking themselves ever since Eve first complained about the lack of fruit in her diet.

"Let's eat the apple," Eve told Adam.

"We're not supposed to, but if that's what you really want," he sheepishly replied.

"Yes, that's what I want."

And look what happened.

Even women wonder what women want. Career? Family? Both? Good luck. Been there, done that, and I'm both exhausted and guilt-ridden.

I just wish someone would tell me I'm wonderful and dote on me. THAT is what I want.

So I hired a ManServant.

ManServants was called "San Francisco's weirdest new start-up" when it launched last year, but it has now expanded to Los Angeles and New York. The company is the brainchild of Josephine Wai Lin and Dalal Khajah, who worked in advertising in San Francisco. One day they found themselves organizing yet another party for a girlfriend. Should they hire a male stripper? After all, isn't that what all powerful, successful, independent women do to show they're just like men?

Yuck.

"We really had stripper overload," said Wai Lin. They decided to do something different for their friend's birthday. "We wanted to hire her a hot male assistant, so we did, and it was such a huge hit at the office."

Soon, everyone asked for a hot male assistant. Wai Lin and Khajah saw an unfulfilled need.

"There's a market for 'dream men,' we know from romance novels," said Wai Lin. "That market is USD 1.5 billion, but when it comes to experience, there really isn't anything for women."

The two women launched ManServants with their own money, describing it as "a luxury service featuring chivalrous gentlemen offering a nonsexual service." ManServants are fully clothed at all times and will do whatever you'd like them to do, as long as it doesn't make anyone uncomfortable, and there's no sex. There's also no drinking or drug use, and ManServants cannot work past midnight. "That's pumpkin hour, just because things happen after that time," said Will Haden, a Tennessee-born actor working as a ManServant in Los Angeles.

ManServants cost USD 125 an hour, and the men keep USD 50 to USD 80. Wai Lin said the company has served 1,000 clients in the last year, and revenues are growing 10 percent a month. She and Khajah are about to start a round of funding. "The portion of the business that we are growing the most is our corporate clients," she said. Those clients include Bravo, Warner Brothers, Armani and Cosmopolitan.

Sales kicked into high gear after ManServants released a hilarious and not-necessarily-safe-for-work video on YouTube. The ad has gotten over 660,000 hits. The company just released a second video promoting new versions of ManServants, including Arm Candy ManServant and Heartbreak ManServant (hire him to help a friend get over a bad breakup).

Yours truly hired Haden as a ManServant to help around the office for an hour. I'd made the ill-conceived decision to do a juice cleanse, leaving feeling quite sorry for myself and without energy. I needed a helper.

Turns out, my wish was Haden's command (see the video). What struck me most was how genuinely sweet he is. "I enjoy serving people, making them feel special," he told me.

That's not to say Haden hasn't had some interesting moments. "I was recently given a Legolas costume with full blonde wig," to please a bride who was a huge "Lord of the Rings" fan. Haden has even been hired by men. "There's nothing strange about it, it's just about adoration and respect," he said.

Wai Lin said hiring qualified ManServants is a challenge. She conducts the same type of background checks Uber drivers go through, but each ManServant also needs to be six things — clever, witty, a showman, a feminist, "or lover of women," have emotional intelligence, and be "easy on the eyes."

Clients have asked for everything from ManServants who look like George Michael to Aladdin to Patrick Swayze in "Dirty Dancing." Sometimes women simply want a ManServant to tell everyone at a party, "You're right, I'm wrong."

Isn't that kind of mean?

"This isn't really about women bossing men around, it's really about adoration, not domination," said Wai Lin.

Haden said he enjoys being around the people he serves, but he never tells clients anything about himself, not even his age (news flash, he's 26 ... I think). "They ask you questions about your personal life all the time as sort of a test," he said. "The fun is in not knowing, I think, keeping that illusion, that facade, is more fun."
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